Xpress, along with the Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Carolina Public Press and Asheville Watchdog, had incurred nearly $4,200 in attorney fees after suing Asheville over its plan to hold a March 31 City Council retreat behind closed doors.
Specifics on how the Asheville City Schools system spends its local allocation (at over $5,800 per student, the second-highest in North Carolina) and its plans to reduce costs have been hard to come by — and may have been concealed in violation of state open meetings law during a May 18 special closed session of the Asheville City Board of Education.
The decision comes after a coalition of media outlets, including Mountain Xpress, took legal action to block the city of Asheville from holding a five-hour closed door meeting.
A coalition of media organizations takes legal action to ask courts to open the publicly-funded meeting.
In a change from previous City Council practice, and in opposition to advice provided by a UNC School of Government expert on open meetings, Asheville City Council plans to go ahead with a closed-door meeting devoted to “strengthening personal relationships, teamwork and communication required to do meaningful work together” on Wednesday, March 31.
As population grows in WNC’s once-rural areas, the model of volunteer-based fire and rescue services is giving way to bigger budgets, more training and significant numbers of paid staff. How are the departments keeping up with the changes, and should they be required to conform to the same requirements for transparency and public oversight as other organizations funded by property taxes?
An investigation conducted by Xpress resulted with A-B Tech vowing to change the way it stores emails, look at the length of time it stores communications and consider other improvements to how the school processes open records requests.
Newspaper boxes are back in the news, with a downtown business owner saying this week that he saw city of Asheville workers removing boxes from a downtown sidewalk late one night, and this morning, some Downtown Commission members questioning the right of newspapers to place their boxes downtown with any legal protection.
Last week, Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene‘s office ordered the removal of 17 newspaper boxes in front of the courthouse, claiming they were unsightly. The move, according to North Carolina Press Association attorney Amanda Martin, was illegal and violates First Amendment protections on newspaper racks on public property.
The newspaper boxes after their removal. Photos by Jeff Tallman